Who am I?
My name is Mark Kaigwa and I am an African speaker, author and entrepreneur.
What do I do?
I am the Founder and Principal at Nendo. Nendo is an African digital strategy and storytelling consultancy based in Nairobi. We deliver solutions that equip leaders and teams with insights into mobile and internet users in Africa. We develop 18-36 month plans and strategies for our clients to achieve targets and unlock value and opportunities. Lastly, we train leaders and teams on how to adapt to the nuances of the African internet and how to act based on research and best-practice. We’ve had experience doing this across 13 African countries to date.
Our prime product is our digital AUDIT. We find businesses and organisations of all sizes waste valuable resources doing the wrong activities using technology. We evaluate all channels that interface with customers (internal and external) and make targeted recommendations and, where applicable, create solutions.
We’ve made it our business to define and deliver solutions in the Age of the Connected African (over 700 million mobile phones and over 330 million internet users).
I run this consultancy along with a great team of nomads (part-time and/or consulting partners) and natives (full-time and/or frequent collaborators). I’m proud of my team, our clients and the contribution we’ve made to make the internet in Africa a better place.
Since 2009, I’ve travelled more than the distance between the earth and the moon (and back, if you add gravity) (+544,071km) giving speeches, workshops, leading projects, teams on and from the African continent. I’ve spent 10 years working in the digital economy here and enjoy the opportunity to package insights as a keynote speaker, workshop leader and professional facilitator.
I’m versatile and can tailor a piece to a range of broad or specific angles, depending on the audience. I aim to leave my audiences with a greater curiosity for multiple narratives. I’ve said in keynotes before, as a call to action to get some “AFRICA in your timeline” as a challenge. And for them to discover Africa as Articulate Fearless Resolute Inspiring Complicated and Agile (A.F.R.I.C.A).
- Technology in Africa
- Mobile in Africa: Lessons from the Continent for the World
- Epochs of Innovation in Africa
- Social Media in Africa: Economics, Politics & Culture
- Innovation in Africa: Software, Hardware & Knowledge
- China in Africa (from a technological/innovation/mobility point of view – see chapter below in Writing)
- The Emerging Media (Mobile, Social, Messaging) Landscape in Africa
- The Evolution of Connected Africans (How Mobile Phones, Feature Phones & Smartphones change the habits of Africans)
- Realities of Digital Marketing on the African Subcontinent: Targeting a Nomadic Audience
- Innovation in Africa: How Youth, Diaspora & Connectivity Accelerate the Continent’s Trajectory
- Nendo’s Trends for 2016 – A 1-hour presentation on the latest from Nendo’s growing library of trends on connected East Africans with recommendations & takeaways tailored to the audience
I am also frequently commissioned by conference organisers to explore topics that would resonate with that particular audience, so please don’t hesitate to reach out for a quotation on a keynote tailored to bring Africa to your audience.
For reference, I also have “speeches-in-a-box” based on the chapters I’ve had the pleasure of writing. Therefore topics such as Social Media’s impact on African society, elections, democracy and economies is of interest. So is Sino-African relations in the context of technology.
From April 2016, Nendo is hosting a series of workshops called “Succeeding at #SocialCare”. I am Course Director and you can find out more at http://learn.nendo.co.ke/. These are some of the best workshops I’ve done and contain material I’m personally quite proud of so I’d encourage you to attend or express interest in attending. We are open to speeches, workshops and seminars and you can enquire about our latest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting our website or reaching out to me directly.
For speaking engagements, I am non-exclusively managed as a speaker by African Speakers & Artists. You may get in touch through them (George Issais – email@example.com or through me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org).
As a writer, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my thoughts with audiences far and wide. A selection of some of my most recent work would include:
From Cyber to Smartphone – Kenya’s Social Media’s Lens Zooms In on the Country and Out to the World (Digital Kenya: The New Generation of Entrepreneurs by Tim Weiss & Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
This is probably the most work I’ve put into a body of writing, ever. My most important writing to date. I took on the paradigm shift that took place in Kenya since the fiber-optic cables made landfall in the coastal city of Mombasa in June of 2009.
I looked in-depth at significant moments such as:
- The beginning of Kenya’s digital creative class and how blogging first existed as an alternative to social media
- How message boards and online forums set the scene for social media in Kenya
- The rise of Kenyans on Twitter, known more as #KOT (you can also see Nendo’s famed experiment at creating a digital dictionary of Kenyans on Twitter at the A to Z of Kenyan Twitter
- #Makmende – a look at Africa’s first viral internet sensation
- #FeedKE which became #KenyansforKenya and crowdfunded close to $7,000,000 by Kenyans in response to the drought in the north of Kenya
- #KenyaFeb28th which served as the Kenyan response to the Arab Spring
- #PeremendeMovement when Kenyan doctors & medical practitioners used Twitter and social media to prop up a strike against the Ministry of Medical Services
- #KEdebate13 and how Twitter and social media propelled fringe candidates forward and gave their campaigns and personalities a huge boost
- #WestgateAttack and how for the first time in history as a terrorist siege was underway, both the terrorists (Al-Shabaab) and the Government (Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government) were using social media on opposite ends with first-responders, emergency services, the press and the public in between
- #OccupyPlaground and how Twitter amplified a protest and galvanised a movement to get schools their title deeds.
- #SomeoneTellCNN (and more broadly unpacking the #SomeoeneTell hashtag). This part of the chapter looks at the 3 strikes when CNN’s reporting irked Kenyans on Twitter and the final straw was dealt during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit when President Barack Obama visited Kenya. CNN’s reporting used the term “hotbed of terror” which I explain in the chapter, went on to be used by two heads of state (Kenyatta and Obama) as well as dozens of other Kenyans on Twitter. CNN had no choice but to fly their seniormost global executive to apologise to President Kenyatta in person.
I believe the #SomeoneTell hashtag is among those that have changed Kenyan society – politically, societally, culturally and economically. The chapter is open access, meaning I will share more on the blog as soon as it is ready to publish. Personally it was a real labour of love and my thanks for Tim Weiss and Dr. Bitange Ndemo for giving me all the room to put my thoughts in this chapter which will be out by the end of 2016.
#MadeInAfrica How China-Africa Relations Take on New Meaning Thanks to Digital Communication (Africa & China: How Africans and Their Governments are Shaping Relations with China. Edited by Aleksandra Gadzala, Rowman & Littlefield, 2015)
I met Yu-Shan Wu in Bonn, Germany and we struck up a close friendship. We were the youngest people in the room at Deutsche Welle’s Global Media Forum (2013). After our panel Tigers on Air: New Players in Developing Media Markets, we had a brainstorm in an empty cafeteria before going to listen to Noam Chomsky and decided to work together. When Dr. Gadzala invited me to write the chapter, I could think of nobody better but Yu-Shan to write it with. I’m still amazed we did it and I’m indebted to her for her being the best writing partner I could have asked for –patient, graceful and dedicated.
The chapter explores how thanks to social media, comparisons and contrasts can be made between Kenyan society, South African society and Chinese society. We examine soft power in today’s age where Africans are coming online and expressing their position on Sino-African relations. The book chapter focuses on Kenya & South Africa and looks at issues such as elephant poaching, ivory trade, Chinese workers in Africa and how perceptions on social media and traditional media have impacted the Sino-African relationship.
Africa’s Mobile Revolution: How the Cellphone is Transforming the Continent (10 Trends in Open Innovation, Dr. Jan Schwab & Christian Kreutz, GIZ, 2014)
This was a very interesting project to work on. It challenged me to think creatively when writing on my position on the continental shift thanks to innovation hubs. I took a look at Africa’s connected class, specifically. whole continent with an interesting challenge to take a continent-wide shift and create a literary set of lilly pads to hop on to put across a case for Africa. My thanks to Geraldine de Bastion for her kind help and inspiration with this piece of work.
If It Will Work in Africa, It Will Work Anywhere (ON: The Power of Now. Curated by Toby Daniels & Craig Hepburn, Social Media Week, 2014)
I’ve felt privileged to be published in this book alongside some of the biggest thinkers of this internet age: Jonah Peretti (CEO of Buzzfeed), author & futurist Douglas Rushkoff, legendary blogger and entrepreneur Seth Godin and my great friend Tricia Wang.
David Rowan, Editor of WIRED magazine said “It’s like WIRED’s fantasy dinner party having access to the talents of Scott Harrison, Jonah Peretti, Nancy Lublin and so many other creative thinkers. ‘On: The Future of Now’ is a brilliant opportunity to understand how technology is changing our world, explained by the very people leading that revolution.”
I encourage you to get the book because all proceeds from the book go straight to charity: water to continue their important work.
Innovation (Doing Ideas, curated by Don Packett, 21 Tanks/Missing Link, 2012)
This was one of the first opportunities I had to contribute to a book. It was a short contribution but I had fun creating it. It was actually a little poetic and reading it in 2016 it challenged me not to settle. You can view my original thoughts on this blog here.
Where have I been featured?
I’ve had the pleasure of having my work, the work of my team(s) and my perspective featured in hundreds of media outlets over the past decade. There’s a range of these online and I’m happy to sample a few, starting with the more recent ones. To get a better sense of my work I’d recommend:
My Journey So Far, A Conversation with George Issaias
Tracking Digital Trends in East Africa by Ravi Naidoo of Design Indaba
Who are Kenyans on Twitter?
Or this BBC piece on Kenyans on Twitter, that my company, Nendo, asked the BBC’s Pop Up team to do when they were in the country.
If you want a local perspective, my time with Jeff Koinange on Kenya’s #1 talkshow is a good place to start.
The History of Social Media in Kenya
If you want a history of social media (in a lesson) you can look to the context I shared with Jeff on Social Media Day in 2015
Interview on the Voice of America with Jackson Mvunganyi of Upfront Africa
I’ve been a big fan of podcasting, having dabbled with it at Nendo (you can listen to our two podcasts on Waabeh.com)
Africa Tech Roundup, recorded in Johannesburg, South Africa. I roped in my two friends, African branding legend Thebe Ikalafeng and legendary Cameroonian technology entrepreneur and investor Rebecca Enonchong.
The BBC World Service asked me to comment on the African perspective of Twitter’s 10th birthday (March 21st). As with BBC interviews, it is short and direct.
For something longer, below is The Nendo Report: Episode 2.
I’ve had the pleasure of having my work, the work of my team(s) and my perspective featured in hundreds of media outlets over the past decade. This is a start at getting the important ones put on this page and chronicling the many others online.
At a conference, I mentioned the phrase “There are more mobile phones in Uganda than light bulbs.” Robin Wauters from The Next Web (now at Tech.eu) sought me out in A chat with Mark Kaigwa about Africa.
What feels like ages ago, Rebecca Wanjiku’s piece in PC World sought to look at the Kenyan state’s approach with social media in Kenyan Government Takes Cautious Approach Toward Social Media.
I’ve featured in CNN twice, the first time in 2010 as a comment in Faith Karimi’s piece Group: Use of ‘Sub-Saharan Africa’ disparaging. And more recently with helping Phoebe Parke with my thoughts on the future of trends for social media in Sub-Saharan Africa in this piece How many people use social media in Africa?.
Forbes covered my panel in Bonn, Germany on China’s Media Investment In Africa Shows Leadership And Raises Questions.
I was glad to be quoted for what proved as a very heated discussion that came from this piece in WIRED called Hype around NGO-funded apps is stifling Africa’s innovation. I’ll let you guess which side I was on.
Dayo Olopade sought my perspective for her piece in The Atlantic called Africa’s Tech Edge. She’s got a great book as well on called The Bright Continent that I’d recommend reading.
AllAfrica featured Nendo’s A to Z in this piece: Kenya: Here’s ‘A to Z of #KOT’, the First Guide for Kenyans On Twitter.
The International Business Times had their Silicon Savannah: The New Frontier For Mobile Apps Is In Africa piece I featured in.
You can view an interview with me in Strategic Marketing Africa Magazine here. Diaspora feature magazine Ayiba Magazine did an interview with me I was in New York titled AFRICA’S DIGITAL MEDIA SPACE: A CONVERSATION WITH MARK KAIGWA by Edem Torkornoo. You can read that here.
Foreign Language Coverage
In case you’d prefer to read articles not in English, there are a few including one I wrote.
For German you’ll find Netzboom soll Afrika nach vorne bringen by Deutsche Welle. Also in German is Afrika goes Internet on Elektronik Praxis (Vogel).
For Italian you’ll find this piece by Chefuturo.it titled Mark Kaigwa: Social media, app e siti web, questa è l’Africa che corre. On Reddatore Sociale you’ll find Facebook spopola in Africa e cambia l’immagine del continente.
In French, you can find an article mentioning me in L’Atelier titled Au Kenya, le e-marketing doit commencer par les réseaux sociaux. Along with other Thousand Network members I was featured in Le Monde in a piece titled Elites 3.0 about the network. NextAfrique had a piece that translated my writing on technology trends titled Afrique : 9 astuces pour booster les technologies en 2014. I also came across a blogger who wrote something after hearing my thoughts during a conference COMMENT LA NUMÉRISATION DE L’ÊTRE HUMAIN BOULEVERSERA LA MÉDECINE DE DEMAIN. And the Forbes story from above in French “Lobs” – 11 Entrepreneurs Africains De Moins De 30 Ans À Connaître Selon Forbes.
For Spanish, my piece in El País was a personal favourite El panafricanismo es real en las redes sociales. Written as a leading Op-Ed for their Planeta Futuro section.
Selected Newspapers & Magazines
As far as newspapers go I’ve featured in Kenya’s The Standard, The Star, The Nation, The Business Daily, The Saturday Nation, The Sunday Nation, The People several times. I’m still collecting all the links and will update this section.
For Kenyan magazines, I was selected as part of Drum Magazine‘s Top 100 Movers & Shakers (2014) and have been featured in South Africa’s Destiny Man, Daily Maverick, The Sowetan (newspaper), SABC (national broadcaster), eNCA (TV station). Early on, I had an enjoyable interview in UK-based Diaspora magazine, ARISE Magazine. Recently I was quoted in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Review Magazine piece on Konza Technopolis City.
As far as blogs you can find both my writing and pieces about my work on Memeburn.com such as Michelle Atagana’s Kenyan Twitter from A to Z: everything you need to know about ‘Kitter’ piece here. I’ve also lent voice to Techcabal.com and a range of blogs.
As far as radio is concerned, I’ve featured in Swahili and English interviews for the Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, BBC and national radio stations in Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda among other countries.
I’ve tried my best to share a variety of interviews here. The list will grow, but as of now this is what I have.
KTN (Kenya Television Network)
I visited Morning Express and spoke to James Smart discussing Nendo’s social media trends.
I also visited Morning Express a few months ago to speak with Sophia Wanuna on politics and social media in Kenya.
In 2015, I helped John Allan Namu understand a cultural phenomenon on a sexual encounter caught on audio that spreading around the country through WhatsApp. It needed to be placed in context of similar examples of where Kenyans had mass sharing of audio recordings of a sexual nature or of sexual encounters.
NTV (Nation Television)
I’ve appeared on The Trend since before it began, with meetings with executives thanks to James Smart. Now, under host Larry Madowo, you can find my appearances below:
Presenting Nendo’s 2014/2015 Trend Report
I was joined by Noni Gathitu to discuss online activism and offline action.
Joined by Nanjira Sambuli of the iHub, we discussed hate speech and ethnic tensions online ahead of the 2013 polls.
I joined the Power Breakfast team on Citizen to discuss trends in technology for 2016 in December of 2015.
I’m really glad to have featured in what is still a very well researched piece on Kenya’s Digital Revolution that features Larry Madowo, Ngendo Machua among others. I recommend watching it to see how far we’ve come and a punctuation point in Kenya’s digital history. I feature some ways in at 8:14.
Sara Kimani and her team at the SABC were helpful in covering Nendo’s digital trends. You can see that here (begins at 8:04)
I joined Linord Moudo, the host of Voice of America’s Studio 54 to discuss Nendo’s trends and digital entrepreneurship on the continent in 2014.
Why do what I do?
I feel I’ve been fortunate enough to create opportunities thanks to technology and a connected economy. I believe in the incredible power of the internet to unlock societal, economic and cultural growth for Africa’s youth and my goal is to impact and showcase this to as many young people as possible.
The very first job I worked on for Warner Bros, was honoured to win a Business Excellence Award for its incorporation of behavior change on HIV and AIDS.
I was honoured to be included in the inaugural Forbes Magazine 30 under 30 list for Africa. The magazine titled it the Forbes, 30 under 30, Best Young Entrepreneurs in Africa list and it was published in their magazine and online in 2013.
(Black Entertainment Television) also gave me a nod in their list of Blacks on the Brink of Greatness in 2013 as well alongside people of colour in the United States and across the globe that were doing important work.
Fellowships have always been a great way for me to grow my networks and career while contributing to the organisation. The three I’d like to highlight are below:
- Fellow, Africa Leadership Network (2011)
- Fellow, Sinapis Group (2011)
- New Media Fellow, International Reporting Project (Johns Hopkins University, 2013)
I’ve been glad to be part of several key Professional Groups. A list of some of the ones I’d like to highlight is below:
- Founding Member, Story University: The World’s Leading Community of Business Storytellers (2013)
- Founding Member, Bloggers Association of Kenya (2011)
- Advisor & Contributor: Hatchforgood.com – largest and most dense resource of storytelling support for non-profit organisations (2014/2015)
- +socialgood Connector (2013-present)
- Alumni, Fast Forward: Leadership Unusual (2015)
- Member, Brand Africa Youth Counsel (2015-present)
I’ve taken on an interest and a role in advising startups in the past few years. My core areas of advice tend to deal with:
Product/Market fit in an African context.
Since 2009, I’ve had the pleasure of being part of a variety of organisations in the “startup phase”. This included joining as the guinea pig/beta cohort of a startup accelerator class (Sinapis) in 2011. This experience helped me to discover and explore product/market fit for my startups and accumulate hours exploring how other founders have successfully done it. Over the past 5 years I have studied, interviewed and engaged dozens of founders on this topic across geographies in Sub-Saharan Africa, giving me a position that helps leaders I work with see blind spots, question assumptions, unlock value and create winning products for the market.
Digital Strategy and Customer Acquisition
Digital strategy takes on many shapes and forms thanks to a variety of channels and technology-driven ways to acquire customers. I pay close interest in this space with my trend forecasting and consultancy work at Nendo. Therefore, it is a contribution I make to founders, investors and ventures I get involved with.
I have kept a global and regional network across the continent as the African Ambassador (Emeritus) of the Thousand Network (formerly Sandbox). Thanks to this I’ve been able to add to it by sharing and seeding great opportunities and occasionally headhunting and matchmaking people to positions informally. Formally, I have had experience assisting in the recruitment of dozens of senior (CTO/CMO/CEO and HoD-level) candidates members for technology-related organisations. I’ve also found and established pipelines for talent and in rare cases, sat in interviews to share perspective. All this so far as a contribution and a “public good” to technology and the startup ecosystem.
I have made successful investors to startup connections and introductions (either for those in my advisory portfolio or those that fit their investment thesis) over the past few years. Lastly, I am an alumnus of the FMGR: Investing in Early-Stage Growth Companies program by the Graduate School of Business at the University of Cape Town in conjunction with Knife Capital & Savannah Fund.
What else am I interested in, besides work?
Outside of work I am passionate about my family, African cinema, great food, travel, the arts and a good story in whatever form it comes. I’m married to my closest friend and the love of my life, Dr. Wanjiru Kaigwa and together we have a daughter. I have one brother, Tweli Kaigwa – a civil engineer by day and a music producer/rapper/film director/ by night. You should listen to his music (he raps in Japanese, Swahili and English and produces for a number of artists in Tokyo and across Japan). More at http://www.twelig.com/